Aokigahara-5

Strangest Places on Earth #11 : Aokigahara

What better than a spooky post on Friday the 13th. So, here goes !

Strangest Places on Earth #11 : AokigaharaAokigahara-5

Aokigahara , also known as the Sea of Trees , is a 35-square-kilometre (14 sq mi) forest that lies at the northwest base ofMount Fuji in Japan. The forest contains a number of rocky, icy caverns, a few of which are popular tourist destinations. Due to the wind-blocking density of the trees and an absence of wildlife, the forest is known for being exceptionally quiet. The forest has a historic association with demons in Japanese mythology and is a popular place for suicides (54 in 2010) despite numerous signs, in Japanese and English, urging people to reconsider their actions. The forest floor consists primarily of volcanic rock and is difficult to penetrate with hard tools such as picks or shovels. There are also a variety of unofficial trails that are used semi-regularly for the annual “body hunt” done by local volunteers. In recent years, hikers and tourists trekking through Aokigahara have begun to use plastic tape to mark their paths so as to avoid getting lost. Though officials try to remove the tape time and time again, tourists and thrill-seekers inevitably leave more and more litter, and a great deal of it lies scattered throughout the first kilometer of the forest, past the designated trails leading to tourist attractions such as the Ice Cave and Wind Cave. After the first kilometer into Aokigahara towards Mount Fuji, the forest is in a more “pristine” condition, with little to no litter and few obvious signs of human presence.

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Hundreds of people have journeyed into the forest to kill themselves amidst its dense trees and vines, so many people that the local police do annual sweeps to clear away the bodies. They no longer publicize the number of bodies discovered, out of fear that those numbers actually encourage suicides. In 2004, 108 people committed suicide there. Signs around the forest placed by local police plead with suicidal visitors to reconsider: “Your life is a precious gift to your parents” and “Please consult with the police before you decide to die.”

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Understandably, many people believe that the forest is haunted by the souls of those who have died there. Others point to a different haunting origin, though. According to one legend, during times of famine in ancient Japan, families couldn’t feed themselves. Some would be abandoned in Aokigahara, where they died of starvation. Those ghosts haunt the forest today, of course.

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